Last night's world premiere of the stage adaptation of Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children kicked off the sixth year of BITE (the Barbican International Theatre Events), which in 2003 will, for the first time, be run year-round rather than the usual six months. In addition to Midnight's Children, a Royal Shakespeare Company production, highlights of the BITE:03 programme include Swedish director Ingmar Bergman's mounting of Ibsen's Ghosts and Colin Teevan's translation of Oepipal comedy The Cuckoos directed by Peter Hall, as well as visiting companies from around the world, including Brazil, South Africa and the US.

BITE was born with the Royal Shakespeare Company's partial withdrawal from the Barbican in 1997, when their annual residency was cut to six winter months only. Since then BITE has welcomed international companies for the spring and summer months. But due to the RSC's full withdrawal in May 2002 (see News, 15 May 2002), BITE has been extended to run throughout the year.

Directed by Tim Supple, the RSC's production of Midnight's Children continues to 23 February 2003. The tale of modern India follows the life of Saleem Sinai who was born at midnight on 15 August 1947, the moment India became independent. It stars Zubin Varla (The Tempest, Jesus Christ Superstar).

Ingmar Bergman's adaptation of Ghosts, seen last year at the Royal Dramatic Theatre of Sweden, comes to the Barbican for four days only from 1 to 4 May 2003, presented in association with producer Thelma Holt . Ibsen's dark, tragic play, detailing a mother-son relationship, was extremely controversial when it premiered in 1881. At the Barbican, the production will be performed in Swedish with surtitles. The 85-year-old Bergman is celebrated internationally, particularly for his films such as Fanny and Alexander and Wild Strawberries.

The BITE:03 also includes several co-commissioned works. These include: in the Barbican Theatre, Happiness by American Laurie Anderson (7-11 May), Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu's Babelle Heureuse (13-17 May), Third World Bunfight's iMumbo Jumbo - The Days of Miracle and Wonder written and directed by Brett Bailey (10-19 July), Alladeen by The Builders Association and Moti Roti (22-26 July), and the return of Cirque Eloize with Nomade (31 July-23 August); and in The Pit, Colin Teevan's English-language version of Guiseppe Manfridi's The Cuckoos, a salacious black comedy that parodies the Oedipus myth, which isdirected by the ever-busy Peter Hall (19 June-12 July).

- by Hannah Khalil